I visited the Library of Congress about a year ago on a quick trip to DC. I figured that stopping by the Library to see if the Software Licensing Handbook was actually on a shelf wouldn’t hurt (yes, it’s a little egotistic, but everyone needs a boost every now and then). The process to actually browse the stacks, however, is fairly involved. You have to obtain a Library of Congress reader card. This involves payment of a fee and a photograph which eventually results in a hard plastic ID card. Taking the card to the librarians enables you to retrieve a book to sit and read. But when I asked the librarian for a copy of the Software Licensing Handbook, they didn’t have one on the shelf. I was crestfallen.
Only then did I make my way to the Copyright Office to inquire about the process. Part of the official copyright process is to file a registration certificate with the Registrar of Copyrights at the Library of Congress. The form, two original copies of your work and the filing fee arrive in Washington, D.C. and meet with the scrutiny of an office filled with submissions from around the globe. The individual reviewer who is going to finish your paperwork and send you back a registration certificate is also part of the process who determines whether your particular work is worthy of storage on the shelves of the Library.
The Registrar’s office explained to me that they simply have so many things come in the door that not everything is actually kept (they add about 10,000 items per day, though). They were extremely gracious, however, in attempting to look up my book. And they were very soft-shoed about trying to let me down gently that it hadn’t been selected for inclusion in the collection. In fact, they told me that in many cases, the materials are sent around DC to other offices – Congressmen/women’s office, Legislative Affairs offices, even the US Supreme Court… all depending upon the subject matter of the particular work and the potential relevance to any matters currently being discussed.
I took being dismissed with grace. But I had to admit to myself that part of the reason that I wrote the Software Licensing Handbook was to provide a resource for the future – something that I could always say I contributed to the greater knowledge of the population. My goal, essentially, was to have the book in the Library’s collection – forever more a part of history. It is therefore with great pride (and yes, even humility now that I understand the scope of the work at the Registrar’s Office), that I am able to say that the second edition of the Software Licensing Handbook is now a part of the permanent collection at the Library of Congress. If you don’t already have a copy, get your LoC Reader Card on your next trip to DC and check it out for a little light reading.